Putting an end to cavities is something that dental science has been trying to achieve for as long as there have been dentists. It took many years for us to fully understand the mechanics that were involved with the creation of these lesions in our enamel, but with that knowledge under our belt, we can start looking at putting an end to them entirely. Excitingly, there have been recent discoveries in dental science that may finally put us on the road to a world without cavities. It all starts with an understanding of how cavities work, to begin with.
The Current Understanding of Cavity Development
While there has been an extensive amount of study done on cavities, what causes them, and how to prevent them, we don’t know everything. What we do know is that the bacteria responsible is Streptococcus mutans, and the formation of cavities is the result of the plaque, tartar, and sugars generated by it. What remains to be understood is how the complex ecosystem of our mouth functions and how we can use this information to put a stop to Streptococcus mutans. In a world where of all patients aged over 20 years, nearly 90% of them have experienced a cavity. What we’ve come to understand about the lifecycle of a cavity follows:
- White Spots Formations: These cloudy white patches on our teeth are caused as enamel begins to leech minerals in a process known as demineralization. While these marks can also appear from too much fluoride, decay is more common.
- Enamel Degradation: As the decay continues, these white spots become pits in the surface of the enamel, eventually wearing through to expose the dentin.
- Dentin Decay: After penetrating the enamel, the decay begins to affect the dentin layer. Advanced decay, pain, and sensitivity all are the results of this exposure.
- Pulp Infections: When the bacteria have worked their way through the dentin, the pulp can become affected. There tends to be severe pain; as a result, a root canal is necessary to properly address this.
- Formation of Abscesses: Infection that finds its way into the root of the tooth can create pockets of pus known as an abscess. This infection can begin to erode the jawbone and damage the other tissues in the mouth.
All of this occurs as part of the efforts of the mutans bacteria. While there are techniques currently in use that can eliminate this bacteria, they have the unfortunate side-effect of obliterating the other bacteria in the mouth as well. As some of these bacteria play a vital role in our oral health, it is not practical to address tooth decay this way.
How We May Eliminate Cavities In The Future To Come
So what does this mean for the complete elimination of cavities? It means specialized approaches are necessary to turn this dream into a reality. One approach has been developed as part of research published in the Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry. A solution comprised of cerium oxide nanoparticles has demonstrated the ability to reduce the generation of biofilm by nearly half and specifically protects the mouth against the work of the mutans bacteria mentioned above. It’s not the 100% elimination that dental science strives for, but it’s an important step along the way.